In the Autumn Statement 2013, Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne, promised to create 30,000 extra student places at universities in 2014 and remove the cap on student places by 2015. The Russell Group, which includes UoN, has criticised the move following a concern with the quality of education as a result of increased student numbers.

The UK Government believes that the change will increase opportunities for students who were unable to progress to the higher education level, in spite of achieving the required grades.

“We are not yet convinced the Government can deliver on its promise that the quality of provision will not suffer with such a significant expansion of numbers”.

The expansion specifically targets engineering, science, technology and mathematics courses. Although it is expected that other courses will soon be eligible for increases.

The extra places will be funded by selling off more student debt to private companies.

The cap removal has been criticised by the Russell Group, which represents 24 of the leading UK universities, including the University of Nottingham (UoN).

Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said:

“Good teaching requires proper levels of investment and we are not yet convinced the Government can deliver on its promise that the quality of provision will not suffer with such a significant expansion of numbers.’’

In line with the Russell Group, UoN is against the removal of the cap of students places at UK universities.

“If Russell Group universities do not want extra students in their classes, then it is better to respect that”.

Meera Vara, a UoN Pharmacy student told Impact:

“As it is, lectures are fully packed with students and it is often difficult to get a one to one type of connection with our lecturers. I think if Russell Group universities do not want extra students in their classes, then it is better to respect that – they have a point about it affecting the quality of education”.

Polina Vasileva, a UoN Psychology student commented:

“I don’t think removing the cap completely is the answer if they want to invest in the future economy. You [also] couldn’t have so many more students without investing a tonne of money in facilities. So I think a gradual increase would be the way to go”.

I believe removing the cap on course places will open up many opportunities for students from all walks of life to study what they truly want.

Yasmin Talsi, UoN Students’ Union (SU) BME Officer, had a different point of view.

She said: “I believe removing the cap on course places will open up many opportunities for students from all walks of life to study what they truly want. It will decrease the currently outrageous competition that applicants face for places, particularly within Russell Group establishments. [This proposal will make] good education more widely accessible”.

Dasha Karzunina, UoN SU Education Officer, said:

“The Government is funding this project by selling off student debt to private companies. We have recently passed a motion at SU Council to oppose student loan sell offs and therefore we do not agree with how the Government is going to fund the expansion.

[We are also concerned that removing the cap on student places could] damage the experience of our current students – as positive as it may be to expand access, we currently cannot support the Government proposal”.

Penniana Permal – Senior News Reporter

Image: Matt Buck

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